Christmas is a time of love, joy and giving, but it can also be a very stressful time financially. Most people underestimate how much they will spend on gifts and often take on additional debt to pay for all of the extra goodies they buy.
With a little planning and forethought you can still have a full tree without taking on unnecessary debt. Here are some tips.
Create a list and check it twice:
Create a list of all the people you have to buy presents for. Put only the essential people on it, but check it twice to make sure you do not forget anyone – last minute spending is often the most common cause of blowing your budget.
Set a budget:
Ask yourself how much can you realistically afford to spend on Christmas this year. Do not put your Christmas shopping on your credit card if possible, just spend what you can afford. Once you have set a total amount, decide how you’ll split it among the people on your list. The challenge is of course making sure you stick to your budget.
Spread the message that Christmas is all about the ‘spirit’ of giving and not necessarily the price tag of your gift. Homemade gifts are often the most memorable as well. Here are some ideas:
• Freshly baked goodies: Why not plan a baking day and cook a big batch of cookies, wrap them up with cellophane and Christmas coloured ribbons and finish them off by creating your own Christmas cards. If you buy some Christmas tree or bell shaped cookie cutters, they can also double up as a template to help you make gift tags!
• Make your own gift wrap: It’s time to have some fun with large sheets of butchers paper - go crazy with your artistic talents and create personalized wrapping for each of your friends. If you are not that artistic, just paint your hands and make hand prints all over the paper, or go outside with the kids and let them splatter paint all over them! Another gift wrapping idea is to recycle the comic section of the daily paper.
• Photos: Do your parents and grandparents have your most recent family photo? There’s probably nothing they’d rather have. You could put your family photos or holiday snaps onto a DVD, a calendar or create a flip book album - No amount of money can buy those memories.
• Personal gift certificates: You can give people coupons promising that you’ll wash their car, babysit, give them a massage, or wash their car. Your creativity is your only limitation on this one.
Kris Cringle/Secret Santa: This is a great way to ensure everyone receives a gift and you all stay within your budget. How does it work? You and your friends/ family put their name into a hat and each person draws out a name. You then only buy a gift for that person, usually at a set price determined by the group. If pennies are tight this year, ask your family or friends if you can do this and you may be surprised how many people like the idea. But be sure to mention it early before anyone starts their Christmas shopping!
Other ideas include just buying for the kids or volunteering to help someone - as giving some of your time is just as precious as giving a gift. By planning ahead and sticking to your budget you’ll ensure you have a very Merry Christmas!